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Monday, December 24, 2012

REPOST: Rights of a Breastfeeding and Working Mother

This post originally appeared in the Mommy Journey as part of a series on natural parenting that I did.  I also wrote about babywearing and cloth diapering.  So head on to The Mommy Journey to read the rest of the natural parenting series of posts.

One of the things that I am most proud and happy to have achieved is the establishment of lactation rooms in my work place.  I've written a series on how we were able to do about it and you can start with the first post.   Since it consists of about 5-6 posts, I decided to write a short version to help working moms set-up their own lactation room or policy in their office.

First, it is important to know your rights.  Under Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, working and breastfeeding moms are entitled to paid lactation periods:
Sec. 12. Lactation Periods. - Nursing employees shall be granted break intervals in addition to the regular time-off for meals to breastfeed or express milk.  These intervals, which shall include the time it takes an employee to get to and from the workplace lactation station, shall be counted as compensable hours worked.  The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) may adjust the same: Provided, That such intervals shall not be less than a total of forty (40) minutes for every eight (8) hour working period
Secondly, aside from providing paid lactation periods, Republic Act No. 10028 also provides for the establishment of lactation stations, including minimum requirements plus a specific statement that this lactation station must NOT be located inside the toilet:
Sec. 11. Establishment of Lactation Station - It is hereby mandated that all health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions shall establish lactation stations.  The lactation station shall be adequately provided with the necessary equipment and facilities, such as: lavatory for hand-washing, unless there is an easily-accessible lavatory nearby; refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breastmilk; electrical outlets for breast pumpts; a small table; comfortable seats; and other items, the standards of which shall be defined by the Department of Health.  The lactation station shall not be located in the toilet. 
Meanwhile, the Department of Health released the Implementing Rules and Regulations on 22 August 2011 and provides additional standards for lactation stations under Sec. 10 of the IRR - "The lactation station shall be clean, well ventilated, comfortable and free from contaminants and hazardous substances, and shall ensure the privacy for the women to express their milk and/or in appropriate cases, breastfeed their child."

For the lactation period, the DOH further specifies that the duration and frequency of breaks may be agreed upon the the employees and employers with the minimum being 40 minutes.  The recommended period is 2-3 breastmilk expressions lasting 15-30 minutes each within a work day. (Sec. 12 of the IRR)

What I like best about the Implementing Rules and Regulations is that it requires the establishment of a workplace policy.  In my office, we have set-up 2 lactation rooms.  However, we do not have a policy in place yet.  Some moms shared that whenever they get up to go to the lactation rooms, some of their bosses give them that "look."  If a workplace policy is set up, these moms wouldn't have to worry about those "looks" from their bosses or officemates.  What does the IRR say about the workplace policy?
Section 9. Workplace Policy - Every workplace shall develop a clear set of guidelines that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding program.  The written policy should be developed in consultation with the workers, approved and properly disseminated to all concern.  The Nursing/Lactating employees should be oriented on the proper handling, labeling, and storage of their own expressed breastmilk.  The policy should be part of the company's general policy or manual of operation, and the policy should operationalize the provision of this IRR.
I have written about a sample proposal for a workplace policy here.  So what's the next step? It would be to identify the correct department to approach.  When we were setting up our lactation rooms, we were being bounced back and forth between the Human Resource Department and the Medical or Clinic Department.  We eventually identified the correct sector - the Wellness Division of the Human Resource Department.  

Despite the existence of these laws, nothing will happen if no employee steps up and takes the initiative to ask for a lactation room and establishment of a lactation policy from her workplace.  Hence, armed with information, it is up to YOU the employee to make it happen. Sometimes, the employer just doesn't know about the existence of the law and most of them are receptive especially since the grant of this benefit includes tax benefits. So, approach your Human Resource Department and ask for your right to a lactation room and policy TODAY.  

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